Andrés Bisonó León, 29
CEO and Co-Founder, SOS Carbon (Dominican Republic)
My Greatest Accomplishment: Developing and launching technologies to tackle the invasion of sargassum, a toxic seaweed that has cost the Caribbean more than $120 million annually in cleanup expenses, reduced tourism by at least 30 percent and posed threats to the environment, marine life and human health. Starting in 2018, I reached out to my mentor, MIT Professor Dr. Alexander Slocum. A month later, Dr. Slocum and MIT graduate student Luke Gray joined me in trying to find a solution. We started the R&D stage of Sargassum Ocean Sequestration of Carbon (SOS Carbon) to effectively prevent sargassum seaweed invasions from affecting the Caribbean while generating other chains of value. Early in 2020, we successfully developed two first-in-kind technologies, validating both with full-scale pilots with the support of 19 public and private institutions from the Dominican Republic and the United States. SOS Carbon intercepts sargassum in the open ocean before it reaches coastlines, safely disposing the toxic material by pumping it into deep ocean, which also sequesters carbon and thus mitigates global warming. The other technology, the Littoral Collection Module system, has proven to be the first complete solution providing cost-effective collection to stop the seaweed from making landfall while subsequently allowing its use as a raw material for other value-added products. With the LCM system, we employ local fishermen and use their artisanal boats to collect the seaweed in the ocean.
We secured the only Environmental Permit in the DR by the Environmental Ministry for sargassum seaweed collection in the ocean. We are currently servicing the largest tourism group of the DR, Grupo Puntacana, and Club Med Punta Cana, together with the local artisanal fishermen association and aquatic service providers for sargassum collection. From June to December of 2021, we collected more than 3.5 million pounds of seaweed, preventing it from making landfall.
How Drexel Helped Me: Drexel offered me a wide range of opportunities including working with Dr. McCarthy and his team doing R&D for one year and a half, doing a co-op in Wisconsin, tutoring engineering courses, while completing a dual major in mechanical engineering and finance. Many other rewarding experiences came from my involvements at Drexel after graduation. I had the privilege to be an advisory board member of LeBow BRIDGE, be a founding member of HOLA Drexel — the first Hispanic & Latino Alumni Affinity Group and be on the curriculum sub-committee for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Group. Drexel was and continues to be a transformational place for my personal and professional growth. I deeply thank the many professors and colleagues who shaped me into who I have become.
My Greatest Source of Motivation: Knowing that I have the capacity to transform society and the environment for a better tomorrow for all.
Where I Hope to Be in Five Years: After completing my MBA at MIT, I will be in leading the efforts to fight climate change while improving the livelihood, economic and social conditions of the Caribbean’s coastal communities. SOS Carbon will be a leader in moving towards real-zero goals by sequestering millions of tons of carbon per year.